Cuba: Anatomy of Fear / Regina Coyula

Ilustration: Rafael Alejandro

For the women of today, leaders.

Regina Coyula, Havana, 23 October 2020 (Originally published in El Estornudo).

In 1980, I worked for G2 (yes, the G2), and I provided staff support to that gigantic “Operation Inca” launched during the events at the Peruvian Embassy. The first times I crossed the many throngs, vociferous and intimidating, where Fifth Avenue splits and opens up to the old Abreu Fontán roundabout, I felt the real possibility of physical aggression. Only after reaching the post of the entrance was I able to breathe easily. At Abreu Fontán, there was a concentration of citizens who would abandon the country through the Port of Mariel.

I, who am not one to wear T-shirts and never have been, acquired three of those “Down with the Blockade,” “Yankees out of Guantanamo,” and “No Spy Flights” T-shirts, each one with a corresponding image. They were my fragile protection to feel safe among the crowds. I was not deterred by my great and disarming fear of the wall of “indignant people” seeking their freedom. In the weeks that I worked in that beach spa, converted into a noisy, crowded, and smelly warehouse of anxious people, ignorant of their future, sustained only by their hope of leaving, I thought of the fear of the “other”.

I rejected the barbarity of the acts of repudiation, that amorphous and anonymous mass, which unleashed its impunity and its instincts, which baited frustrations and in collusion with the authorities, passed them the bill. I did not participate in any repudiation. The only one on my block was against a single family, quiet and decent, who never pretended to be in favor of the government. It was carried out by four vociferous women who had just arrived in the neighborhood.

Carlitos Berenguer, himself, received the derision for all those who left. He was, as far as I know, a mid-level government official; however, in front of his building on 26th Avenue, very close to my house, they built a stage with audio and lighting equipment. Every day, they organized a program, which included everything from loud songs to the worst references about his personal life. This was accompanied by gas and power outages and graffiti on the front door of his apartment.

I cannot imagine the hell his family went through and was ashamed for continue reading

them the one time my curiosity detained me there. I recognized in many of the faces the same rejection it inspired in me, but they did their part to appear neither too enthusiastic nor too apathetic. Spontaneously, those who were purely ideological took the microphone, they raised their fists and lost their voices during their diatribes.

To many of them, who today spit in disgust in the four corners of the world when anyone speaks of the Revolution, the fear of being unmasked accompanies them, and that also must be a very disturbing fear.

There were other cases less meaningful but which ended tragically in injury or death. I do not know if the data exist, 1980 was not the internet era, and much of that horror occurred unbeknownst to the world and even to Cubans themselves. I can understand hate eating away at them forever because, in life, there are strong blows. . . Even so, there were repercussions for the Government of Cuba. Retracting, after affirming that the people would take action; Fidel Castro declared the moral superiority of the people, putting an end, at least officially, to those shameful days of intransigence.

The latency of the method was maintained by the Rapid Response Brigades and during the “Maleconazo” of 1994, and especially so far during this century, against the peaceful opposition and especially against the Ladies in White.

It was my turn to closely observe the act of repudiation in 1993 against the families of my husband’s, Rafael Alcides’s, children. Hospitalized for months to protect my pregnancy, and three days after my C-section, the details of that grand performance and Alcides’s detention became known to me with time. The street closed off, cameras, loudspeakers, strangers taken from their workplaces to yell without knowing to whom or why they were yelling.

My own act of repudiation was missing. And I experienced it on December 10th and 11th of 2013 at the headquarters of Estado de Sats. Twenty years later, but the same methods: the street closed off, cameras, loudspeakers, strangers taken from their workplaces (and schools) to yell without knowing to whom or why they were yelling.

I do not want to focus on the repudiations, intrinsically vile. I want to focus on the fear. In the fear of blowing their cover and denouncing the degradation to which human beings were being subjected, those who on the previous day they greeted or perhaps they even owed a favor to the enemy. Of the fear that, like preventive medicine, they attempt to spread among an ever more indocile citizenry; of the participants’ fear of ending up transformed from the victimizers into the victims.

The fear of demonstrating my rejection at the “right moment and place,” the fear of being considered not sufficiently combative, the fear of not belonging. The fear at that the time they surrounded the headquarters of Estado de Sats and I decided to cook to set aside my worries that my family hadn’t heard from me since the day before. Terrible thoughts enter your mind at moments like those.

This is not a story, it is only to call attention to a phenomenon that is creatively recycled, always with those hateful ones whose help further damages — if that is possible — the fragile social fabric. That is the fear that remains.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

Among the Lines / Regina Coyula

Cubans routinely spend hours a day standing in lines. (14ymedio)

Regina Coyula, 27 December 2020 — “Among lawyers you see yourself,” that curse from the movies, would be readapted for Cuba as “Among the lines you see yourself,” exact, comprehensive.

I’m going through paperwork, a brutal exit after the isolation of the pandemic. But in addition to the exercise of patience, long hours of waiting are much better than Granma* or Cuba Dice*, as the states of opinion go.

After the first hours, the complicity of suffering the transitory common destination of the solution (or not) of the procedure, no longer cautious, the irritation, discontent and suspicion faced by the advent of 2021 emerge.

The new prices take up far more space than the wage increases; one does not have to be a mathematician or an economist, everyone who complained in my line at the Civil Registry — which was not a few — assumed that life was not just paying for food and energy, and that those normal extras are clearly not a problem for those who “ordered” the “Ordering Task” [Tarea Ordenamiento**].

I saw serious doubts with the phrase “no one will be left homeless,” as more than one case of continued homelessness was narrated in the line.

As always in Cuba, the jokes, now also in the form of memes, were shared with that ability to laugh at our misfortune, an escape valve also to wow “all those leaders who appear on television whose appearances deny any food difficulties.”

As a background note: in that line of anxious people, and in those at the fosca Bank, the currency exchange, the ration store at N and 21, the Coppelia ice cream parlor, the agricultural markets at 17 and K and at 26 and 41, the foreign currency store at 12 and Linea and State TRD chain store at La Mariposa, the 12 and 25 market, the former Pain de Paris at 26 and Kohly, and on the A27 bus; social distancing is an entelechy, something that, like the general discontent, television journalists fail to capture for their year-end triumphalism.

Translator’s notes:
* State newspapers.
**The so-called “Ordering” or “Statutory” Task will begin to be implemented on 1 January 2021 with the elimination of Cuba’s dual currency system, the revaluing of the Cuban peso, increases in pensions, wages and prices, and other actions.

The Usefulness of the Tongue / Regina Coyula

Carlos Lechuga, filmmaker. (Facebook)

Regina Coyula, 9 September 2020 — There are things I read that have the effect of making me want to write more. I was commenting to my love about that convoluted relationship we maintain, a game of distances, a game that Carlos Lechuga would understand and will understand better when he is an old man.

In this novel (?) Carlos talks about himself through his obsessions: movies, sex, Cuba. Even in these interviews he gifts us, it is Carlos who draws himself. He does not sing and celebrate; he torments himself with that insolence of the young to believe that forty is the end of everything. I writes about what he knows best, which is himself, and emerges as imperfect but credible, and I forgive those imperfections because his authenticity shines through.

This is not a literary criticism, I liked the book after the trap that warns us that what we see may or may not be, that reality and fiction erase the limits for this obsessive who writes while he hopes to raise money for his next film project.

Kill and write, Carlos Lechuga. The cinema will come. Cuba will come (or go). As for your other obsession, Pfizer has it figured out for you.

Imperialism or Twitter Trolls: Who’s to Blame? / Regina Coyula

Cubans connect to the internet in a park in Havana (Photo: Yucabyte)

Regina Coyula, 20 September 2019 — During a special appearance by Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel on the September 2019 broadcast of the talk show Roundtable, several Twitter users complained about a number of accounts which have been blocked on the platform. Many, though not all, were linked to the news media. The suspended accounts included those of Roundtable and its presenter, Randy Alonso Falcón, the official news website Cubadebate, the Cuban Union of Journalists (UPEC), Radio Rebelde, Granma Digital, Canal Caribe and the Ministry of Communications. The account of Oliver Zamora Oria, the Cuban correspondent for Russia Today, was also among those suspended.

The reaction was swift. Using hashtags such as #CensuraVsCubaenTwitter, officials, journalists and supporters of the ruling party — including Díaz-Canel himself —denounced the suspensions as an anti-Cuban operation orchestrated by the United States government. “The U.S. State Department’s Internet Task Force for Cuba issued recommendations last June which called for using the platform as a highway of subversion in Cuba,” read an official statement issued by UPEC regarding the suspended accounts.

It is paradoxical to see a campaign in which labels referencing freedom of the press and democracy are used by parties which despise both concepts and operate in ways counter to them. continue reading

Many of those protesting seem to ignore the fact that Twitter has terms of service, the violation of which carries a penalty.

The Computerization of Society initiative has increasingly given rise to what we might call the “cyber trench” in the Battle of Ideas*. A large number of public officials have opened Twitter accounts while journalists have increased their cyber presence and activity on social media. Many of them enjoy what in Cuba is popularly known as the “oil tanker phone,” a mobile device paid for by the institution to which an individual is affiliated and whose purposes include the “defense of the revolution.”

A review of most of these accounts reveals that an overwhelming number of posts by official news outlets, members of the Council of Ministers, the National Assembly, the president’s office and the president himself are retweets. These accounts produce very little original content or content related to the professional activities of these individuals and institutions.

In turn, all of these posts are replicated by an army of trolls, dubbed by Cuban users as cyberclarias. They generate massive numbers of fake profiles whose sole purpose is to spread the content of accounts a user follows.

It is a huge and varied scheme. Nearly all the trolls, if not all those I have listed, follow the account of President Díaz-Canel. They can then alternately follow those linked to Cuba’s vice presidents, government ministers, party secretaries, officials at different levels, directors of institutions, official media outlets and some foreign press outlets. They also tend to follow international politicians such as officials from the governments and institutions of Venezuela and Nicaragua, Bolivian president Evo Morales, and former presidents Lula da Silva, Cristina Fernández and Rafael Correa. Having done this, they then follow each other.

Although fake profiles are identified by specific professions, they generally do not follow other accounts related to the profession to which they claim to belong. They don’t sleep, they don’t work and some tweet at a frenetic pace, almost by the minute, retweeting thousands of posts from the accounts they follow. They use random images downloaded from the internet as a profile pictures without giving it too much thought. And a nice detail: they usually choose photographs that align with western standards of beauty.

Among the profiles created for ideological propaganda purposes are some which post original tweets with the goal of starting trends.

Such large scale, irregular activity should not have gone unnoticed by Twitter. Shortly after Díaz-Canel’s September 11 appearance on Roundtable the tweet storm began. It was probably then that Twitter decided to suspend many of these accounts.

Ultimately, almost everything will go back to normal and the real accounts will be reinstated, as happened in Venezuela. After a similar episode, many were restored.

I will put aside the questions I always ask myself when I stumble upon hordes of fake accounts: Why do those who defend the government create fake accounts? And why do they want to remain anonymous if they are defending the truth about Cuba and have the support of those in power?

Originally published on on September 13, 2019

*Translator’s note: The use of the term “Battle of Ideas” was formalized by Fidel Castro as a ’stage’ of the Cuban Revolution in response to the case of the child rafter Elian Gonzalez. According to, a Cuban government website, it consists of five major ’battles’ and around 200 programs.

Emotions and Social Networks / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 10 April 2019 — With the ability to access the internet from a mobile phone, the vast majority of the Cuban people have opened a door to an almost unknown world. A world with many years of experience where ingenuity mixed with a voracity for the so long denied, produces unhealthy behavior, visible especially in social networks.

It’s enough to be in emotional disagreement with an idea/photo/video/text, for a normal person to become a troll. And if the attacks or endorsements multiply in one corner or another of this virtual quadrilateral, new users will mutate into trolls on both sides. They reinforce the idea of what others expect from that interaction. Not being face to face and the use of pseudonyms reinforces behavior that in real life tends to be of lesser intensity, or that at least, does not reach a peak with such immediacy. continue reading

It is not a phenomenon  exclusive to Cuba. It is known that when the subject is emotional, people act on the basis of moral indignation, which makes them feel good about themselves, and that feeling of being right reinforces intervening again in the same tone.

Facebook and Twitter are ideal spaces to transmit emotions, and this emotion feeds of “likes,” sharing and retweeting as a moral reward of approval.

From another angle, this behavior has not gone unnoticed for those people who have seen an economic mother-lode.

Have you ever — or often — shared tender photos of animals, beautiful sunsets, idyllic landscapes, wise, motivating, witty phrases; or those more emotional images of undernourished people, babies with Down Syndrome or children with cancer?

Do you share religious messages, hugs, friendship, in short, the varied combinations that always end up generating a ton of retweets.

Almost everyone has shared once, others have lost count of the times they have clicked or endorsed these contents.

Victims of ignorance, we have also circulated the messages of “the Messenger administrator” or “the CEO of Facebook”, alerting us that there are who knows how many accounts and we should forward information to our contacts. Another variant with a corporate disguise.

Almost all those arrivals on our wall have a different purpose than they appear to have. Appealing to the underlying feeling that if you do not get involved you are not a good person, or do not support a friendship, or that a catastrophe may occur in our beloved social network; in different parts of the planet, people we will never know, earn money with our clicks.

Only in passing, mention the news or false images out of context with apocalyptic headlines. So important / ingenious / impacting states arrive at our wall that we share immediately. We are not obliged to fact check, but at least we must be aware that there is a problem and it is increasing.

These are, shall we say, tricks but rather innocuous ways of winning a chat at our expense. But there are others whose scope we can not handle.

A while ago it was learned that a pastime that is still on Facebook and became very popular, was designed specifically to capture data: How famous are you? From your photo you observe the transformation to the famous one in question. To run, the app requests permissions and receives data such as name, photo, age, sex, language, country, friend list, mail, photos, likes …

The South Korean company VonVon, and I no longer speak of individuals if not of companies, developer of this and a variety of games for Facebook, trades with this information. In its privacy policy it announces that the data it collects may be sold to third parties, which means that our data may be sent without our knowledge to a site with which we have never interacted, of which we have no knowledge and that we do not know for what purpose they are collected.

Nor is the solution to “turn off” Facebook, which a year ago already allowed the filtering of data from millions of users to Cambridge Analytica and a security breach has just become known that exposed the data of at least one million usersIt is common sense not to get carried away by empathic first impressions.

If a friendship shares important content with us, we can and should support it. Or simply because we like it. But it is much healthier to create our own content with the topics that interest us rather that resend those that come from who knows where.

With chains of all kinds, the word should be NO, but we talk about social networks, and we should not exaggerate either. What we publish and what we share will always be an individual responsibility.

Jose Marti and the Single-Party Political System / Regina Coyula

Jose Marti in the Plaza de la Revolucion

Regina Coyula, 31 August 2018 — Given that the subject is fashionable and that, in support of it, Fidel Castro’s speech has been quoted in the press, I quote José Martí — better positioned in the ranking of national public opinion — on the topic:

 “… The Republic … will not be the unfair dominance of one class of Cubans over others, but an open and sincere balance of all the real forces of the country, and of the free thought and desire of all Cubans.

“Every public party must adjust itself to its people.

“The Revolutionary Party, whose prior and temporary mission shall cease on the day when Cuba does its share of the war it has agreed on with the island, has no heads to raise, nor old or new bosses to impose on those of the country, or aspirations which would be swept away in one breath by the prior right of the first republic, and the new, supreme right of the country.”

A Cuban in the Court of Happiness by Decree / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 11 September 2018 — A friend recently pointed out to me, the Granma newspaper was a magnificent source of inspiration for alternative journalism. I do not subscribe to the paper nor would I be capable of standing in line at a kiosk to buy it, so it is an exception when I find myself with a copy. This rarity led me to a pearl on Friday, an idyllic full-page article: “The Untold Reality of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

The journalist seems to have written in situ about what he calls “the ignored realities.” He was very impressed after a visit to Songdowong International Camp, where he captures the opinion of a North Korean teenager: “The bed, the mattress and even the paper stuck on the wall are so fantastic that we fell asleep without realizing it.”

For most Cubans, still without access to open and verifiable information, this chronicle may even light a small flame of solidarity towards the North Koreans, trapped seventy years ago in the happiness by decree of the Kim dynasty; a dynasty with hereditary castes that depend on their ties to the government. continue reading

A full page article, analyzing it would require an essay and not a blog post, but the excited journalist doesn’t mention that the beach camp of his North Korean son known as the Songdowon International Children’s Union Camp, a set specially prepared by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for the benefit of foreigners, Tripadvisor site included.

So it is totally consistent that a child in attendance asked to talk with a representative of a friendly government, does not dwell on slogans in his statement, but is honest about what really impresses him about the place: the bed, the mattress, the wallpaper…

From the National Highway to the Information Highway / Regina Coyula

Source: Wikipedia

Regina Coyula, 13 September 2018  — In the 1980s, when driving along the brand new highway pompously named Ocho Vías (Eight Lanes), one’s attention was drawn to the small sheds distributed along the way. It was then for coaxial cable, but it would be for fiber optics. The latest. Those little sheds promised (or seemed to promise, would be more accurate) modern telecommunications thanks to a fast and reliable technology, even in the face of storms and our traditional hurricanes.

But it was the ’80s, the country was pointed towards (and bolstered by ) the societal project of the New Man, and with the demise of that project a slow death has taken over what came to be constructed of the National Highway, which should have ended in Santiago de Cuba, but lurched toward and ended at the center of the island. The same fate must have befallen the other project of the small sheds, regarding which there is no news.

I was thinking about this on this weekend in 2018, when I tried to connect through the free test announced by Etecsa, the phone company, which was meant to allow us to connect to the internet via cellphones.

Translated by Jim

Memory of the Future / Regina Coyula

Rafael Alcides

Regina Coyula, 29 June 2018 — Alcides was not a censored one (although undoubtedly he would have been), but a quarter of a century ago, by his own will, he insiled [internally exiled] himself from Cuba’s cultural life. As part of that insile, he did not let himself be seduced by the national literature prize about fifteen years ago.

He felt rewarded knowing that his book Agradecido como un perro (Grateful as a Dog) was exchanged for cigarettes in the Combinado del Este prison in the late eighties, that it traveled in a plastic bag with the scarce possessions of a rafter, or was requested in the neighborhood; that kids would arrive from all over the country who discovered in a bookstore second hand.

His books are now collectors’ items, a writer unknown to the youngest and unpublished after 1990, if not for the Sevillian editor Abelardo Linares knocking on the door one day and later others appeared in Logroño, and because of the insistence of the unforgettable Albertico Rodríguez Tosca, in Colombia.

Alcides was unable to leave the house to meet a celebrity. Instead, many will remember an extraordinary host, both friends and recent arrivals. He lived as a poet, always wanting to see poetry in everyday events. Some verses saved for posterity. Poetry driven away, he dedicated himself to to finishing enormous drafts of novels left in the pipeline in the hurry to live, and now left to me, filled with notes for a huge job ahead.

Many thanks to all of you who have sent me your admiration and regret.

From a Leader to a Director, From a Director to a Functionary / Regina Coyula

A long line of customers stretches outside a Western Union office in Havana. (14ymedio)

Regina Coyula, 20 April 2018 — The new president takes office with the backing of Raul Castro, but the advanced ages of the so-called “historical leaders” make that support very volatile and Diaz-Canel must create his own alliances beyond those he inherited, in order to govern a country filled with problems.

In spite of yesterday’s speeches, and in spite of Diaz-Canel, of Raul Castro and of the rest of the 603 deputies, the economy must be put ahead of the ideological cart now that there is nothing left of the “Maximum Leader” except his ashes.

And since they proclaim themselves so irreversibly socialist, they should study, review and analyze what Marx wrote on the issue. And if all this is tedious and old, get in line: at a market, a pharmacy, a bus stop — opportunities abound — and pay attention.

Internet from the Shore / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 16 March 2018 — (Text published in the bulletin of the 2018 Internet Freedom Festival) Cell phones have been used commercially in the world since 1995, but we Cubans couldn’t have our own cell phones until 2009. Internet access through prepaid cards in public places dates from 2015. In Cuba, the year 2017 will be remembered for the introduction of 3G technology and access to the Internet for the first time from home via ADSL-fixed telephone lines.

The only telecommunications business that operates in the country announces an increase in access, but it comes at the cost of high prices, censorship of pages critical of the Government and self-censorship, with the user suspecting that all navigation is traceable. continue reading

I learned about the Internet in 2009, during a trip to Spain, and it was love at first sight. When I went back to Cuba, I decided to open a blog, and I asked my neighbor, the blogger Yoani Sánchez, for help. I spent months posting blindly thanks to friends abroad who uploaded the contents from content I emailed to them.

My first time on the Internet in Cuba, I wasted a prepaid card that gave me an hour of connection from a hotel, since I was so nervous and inept that I forgot the password and spent an hour of virtual onanism rereading my posts, discovering the comments…and nothing more.

I had to learn how to swim in those waters, as they say. I had to “empower myself” to be not just someone who reads email and opens a page on Facebook. Studying came to me easily because it encourages the illusion that I’m not getting Alzheimer’s like I feel with my son (I have to say that I came to motherhood late) when we’re discussing applications and programs.

And together with this familiarity that I established with the Internet, I became conscious that it’s a tool that is too powerful to be left in the hands of governments and/or businesses. As a Cuban, I feel that they have denied us entrance into the 21st century, that this digital divide is difficult to remedy and is even more serious in a literate population with a high rate of middle and higher education, which, in addition, is growing old.

We can’t blame our technological backwardness on the Blockade-Embargo (what it’s called varies according to one’s viewpoint) alone or to the long dispute between the governments of Cuba and the United States, although it has its part.

Beyond the material limitations that it supposes, there exists a domestic political will to keep us isolated and uninformed. José Martí, our greatest thinker, said it simply: “Don’t believe; read,” but we Cubans don’t want to be spoon-fed bits of information seasoned by the governmental point of view. That day when I forgot my password, I decided not only to swim, but also to help others who look out from the shore.

Translated by Regina Anavy

The Eye: Data / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 16 January 2018 — During the World Internet Governance Forum held in Geneva at the end of December 2017, my curiosity was raised that the word most mentioned in the different forums was “data.”

The term Big Data has been increasingly pervasive among the multiple stakeholders in Internet Governance. Since the English mathematician Clive Dumby, in 2006, launched the phrase that is associated with the data boom: “Data is the new oil,” this new oil, unlike the organic one, has only grown exponentially, and is a “renewable” resource. continue reading

Impossible to give shape without complex programs and powerful processors, so that this enormous amount of information is usable; To make these data really valuable, what is known as the 4V rule must be fulfilled: Volume, Speed, Variety, Veracity, which are explained by themselves.

According to the most widespread idea, it is about the data generated by social networks as a whole; however, these data represent a small amount of the global volume, but they are the data that allow profiles to be drawn up, and which may end up violating the right to privacy, as has already been demonstrated.

Something as widespread and everyday as the mobile phone, even with the data turned off, is a transmitting source and, by triangulating the antennas, can constantly announce its geographical locatio. A TED conference offers an interesting perspective on this.

Cases like that of Dumby that became a millionaire creating brand loyalty through the expert handling of Big Data to know tastes and trends, have motivated many to create their own ventures with data analysis.

For others, studying this information can predict droughts and prevent famines; it can improve the life of the citizen by optimizing administrative management in what is known as Open Goverment; or it can be decisive in clinical diagnosis. This is, let’s say, the friendly area of Big Data, because in its darkest side, in the hands of companies and/or unscrupulous governments, what can not be deduced about the private life of individuals?

In many countries, these databases have been opened to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation and as a sign of transparency. But as, in Cuba, we can not wait for that opening by a secretive government par excellence, the care of the data is an individual responsibility. What we share on social networks, what we say on the phone, the content of our correspondence, both traditional and electronic.

And if we want more privacy, leave the cell phone at home.

Intellectual Property in Cuba: Reprint, Reeducate, Reinsert, Rethink / Regina Coyula

Cuba’s Higher Institute of Art (ISA). (Source:

Regina Coyula, 8 December 2017 — According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), intellectual property is “any property that, by mutual agreement, is considered to be of an intellectual nature and worthy of protection, including scientific and technological inventions, literary or artistic productions, trademarks and distinctive signs, industrial designs and geographical indications.”

The protection umbrella covers both the most traditional works and those associated with new technologies: multimedia productions, databases or computer programs. It is assumed that the protection of copyright encourages creativity and favors cultural and social development. The absolute character of this assertion is stubbornly defended by those who defend free culture. continue reading

We will leave aside trademarks, patents and everything related to the protection of industrial property to place the focus on the artistic creation protected by copyright. In particular, we will look at the way in which this creation is disseminated and/or shared, as this is a current issue that has peculiar characteristics in Cuba.

Cuba is a signatory to the Berne Convention amended in 1979. The Cuban copyright law dates back to 1977 with modifications through decree-laws that continue into the first years of the past decade. Intellectual property and copyright issues are taught not only in the School of Law, but in the Higher Institute of Art (ISA), the Higher Institute of International Relations (ISRI) and the School of Social Communication. The updating of the law is an imperative to adapt it to the changes of the digital age.

In practice, there is an exemplary zeal for the protection of Cuban intellectual property in the international arena, which contrasts with the laxness in respecting the intellectual property of others that has prevailed within our borders.

Restrictions on access to quality information in the scientific-technical field meant that in the 60’s publications such as Scientific AmericanScience or Science & Vie were reproduced without consultation to be sent to the archives of the documentation centers of different organs of the State including its education and research centers.

In the 80s, with the rise of videos in Betamax format, now obsolete, Omnivideo, a company affiliated with the CIMEX Corporation, sold unauthorized copies of film in hard currency stores. On the other hand, it is usual practice for Cuban television to reproduce materials while hiding the logo of the channel from which they were taken.

All these practices have tried to justify themselves ethically with the argument of “breaking the blockade,” but leave out the deeper discussion that reveals the illogical contrasts already discussed. Copyright is not only the protection of the right of the owners, it is also the creation of a favorable scenario for art, knowledge, science and culture to circulate. The legal framework should reflect that balance, a only then can a society exploit and take advantage of technological advances.

The rights of copyright holders and the fight against piracy

There are many groups that defend piracy for having been the instrument for knowledge, culture and science to be democratized. It is argued that the United States only became protective of copyright when it developed its own cultural industries after having widely pirated British works.

However, during the last decades, international treaties reflect a protectionist regulatory trend that pressures countries to strengthen their legal protection mechanisms. As Cuba enters into the logic of the market economy, record sellers, who fill their devices with all kinds of material protected by copyright, will be up against the awareness that they are encouraging an illegal activity.

It is important to recognize that, as in most underdeveloped economies, pirated discs and other digital media, both outside legal distribution networks, continue to be the largest form of access to recorded music and movies.

While the prices of legitimate CDs of Cuban music vary between 15 and 25 convertible pesos, the same CD in an alternative market costs no more than three. In the Cuban case, the knowledge of how The Weekly Packet works and is distributed , serves to understand the internal dynamics.

The internet is practically non-existent in Cuban society. Few people can have a home connection and public ones are irregular and still very expensive. This favors the coexistence of recorded discs, USB memories and portable discs due to the high number of CD/DVD players that still exist in the country.

Everything points to the fact that this model must change. If bilateral relations with the United States are regularized and/or the trade embargo laws against Cuba are weakened, the unrestricted use of protected material is put into perspective.

Those who manage the aforementioned Weekly Package, increasingly, have been including commercial advertising from the island’s the emerging private sector. This could allow them a relatively smooth fall when it becomes a punishable offense to transfer products protected by copyright, giving them the option of converting into cpmpanies supported by companies.

For those who sell discs, the road will be different. The desire to legitimize will generate initiatives such as agreements with local artists to function as distributors of their material. Thus they may become like their peers in Ecuador or Bolivia, former sellers of pirated production, many of whom reconverted due to the joint effort of the interested institutions and the Government, thus becoming merchants that pay taxes and pay national artists for sales. As a result, the costs of music CDs have been lowered and there is support for the promotion of the national market and a legal status of the vendor, previously nonexistent.

Cuba must start thinking about the transition. How can an internal market be supported by keeping the jobs and income that are being created and allowing the owners to receive income from the exploitation of their work? This is the commercial edge.

However, as in the rest of the countries, no legislation could foresee the change that the popularization of the information and knowledge through the Internet would bring, with both the positive and negative aspects it would entail. It is inevitable to rethink this given the new way in which information travels, while the right to access protected content is permeating popular consciousness.

Free Culture

The spread of knowledge that uses digital technology where the cost of reproduction is close to zero, translates into a jump in the level of access to information and culture never before seen in a proportion never imagined. It is inevitable that people affect others and are affected by the opinions and knowledge that, in massive quantities, are shared in social networks, and in digital publications 2.0, where anyone can leave a comment.

The internet, but above all the philosophy of free software, have led to the appearance of categories such as copyleft (a word game xpressing the opposite of copyright), or Creative Commons, both related to free culture . The popular Wikipedia is a collaborative creation par excellence.

This ability of the Internet and digital technology to widely distribute content clashes with the central premise of copyright, which requires asking to ask permission to use it. In the search for legal mechanisms that allow people to take advantage of these characteristics, the philosophy of free software that rests on copyleft licenses and modifies the effect of the legal model of copyright is reasserted.

In copyleft licenses, ownership is used to grant very broad permits to other people in the use of the protected material with only one condition: if what is done with the material is to modify it for a derivative version, the license must be maintained in the new material, so that the broad reuse effect is perpetuated.

Inspired by these ideas, Creative Commons licenses emerged at the beginning of the 21st century, presented as a series of six licenses, a kind of menu from which creators can choose, giving more or less permission to reuse their work.

The development and promotion by the state by these open licenses that are associated with the idea of free culture promotes a series of initiatives where the commercial aspect is displaced. Instead, the role is to take advantage of technology to widely distribute the contents. For example, open educational resources, an initiative of important educational institutions to share all of their teaching materials endorsed by UNESCO, has been adopted by many academic institutions and promoted by governments such as those of Poland or the USA.

On the other hand, at the economic and political peripheries, in this arena, piracy has a very well established role as a development strategy that facilitates the circulation of knowledge goods. Piracy also has a clear political role as a counterweight to the centralized control of information, either by the State or by private interests.

The flexibilities of copyright, science and culture

The issue of the broadest access to protected works cannot be left only to the will of the people. Copyright, in its own architecture, has weights and counterweights. As a balance mechanism for the privileges of those who create works, the copyright rules provide that, once the term of protection expires, the works enter the public domain and the author can no longer control commercial exploitation (moral rights are perpetual). Thus, anyone can reuse the works without asking permission.

Additionally, during the term of protection (in Cuba it is 50 years), the law recognizes exceptional cases. Given conditions that are often very restrictive, people can reuse protected works without asking permission, because the knowledge and culture of society is considered to navigate through them. That is why works can be “quoted, parodied or used for academic purposes.”

International treaties have effectively generalized the protection of owners, but have left it up to the States to legislate exceptions. This has led, especially in developing countries, to lists that tend to be limited and very restrictive. Contrast, for example, the United States, where, beyond closed lists, there is an open clause that allows courts to use broader criteria to analyze if the use of a work without authorization of the owner can be considered as fair, and, therefore, does not violate the copyright.

As Cuba enters the international market, the pressures will be to comply with the protections. If it does not do so in balance with the right of people, there will be serious problems of access to knowledge, science and culture, as well as other rights. Cuban law has very little flexibility and does not even meet the needs of the pre-Internet age.

Let’s look at a single example to demonstrate the problem. It is usual in the laws of copyright to contemplate exceptions to use current news without it being considered a violation of copyright. The news media in the world reproduce, for example, the images of the last terrorist attack without fear of being sued by the local newscast that obtained them. This is not possible in Cuba and forces information providers into illegality. Current information is exceptional and any law must recognize its use beyond copyright.

In sum, the debates about the limits between sharing knowledge and protecting intellectual property have only just begun. Discussing, analyzing local effects and proposing a balanced legal framework is an obligation that can not be postponed by the interested parties in Cuba.